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Big Island's only medical clinic closes in December

Centra made the decision two weeks ago

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Big Island's only medical clinic will close by the end of December. Patients in the Bedford County community say this isn't a good idea.

Big Island Family Medicine Center on Lee Jackson Highway is a primary care practice with only a part-time doctor and a limited staff of four serving about 900 patients. And the company that owns the clinic says other facilities are able to provide more services, such as X-rays and labs. 

The news of their only medical clinic closing down is devastating the small community. Chief Brandon Cocke of the Big Island Fire Company says this could affect volunteer firefighters.

"People get sick on calls or get sick at the firehouse during duty. Normal business hours they could be seen and take care of the problem," said Cocke. 

The clinic is owned by Centra Medical Group. During an interview by phone Wednesday afternoon, representatives say there's a number of reasons for the closure, such as difficulty in getting a full-time doctor, an aging building and the lack of services provided.

Board members decided two week ago to close the facility. Cocke say this decision could lead to major problems.

"I figured that the 911 calls from people are going to go up. Where before, they could hop in their cars and be seen in five minutes at a doctor. Now that can't happen," said Cocke.
     
Larry Whorley, captain of the Big Island Emergency Crew, says he and others are trying to come up with a plan to change the company's mind.

"We're going to get a petition up and send it out in the community to let Centra know we really don't want y'all to leave," said Whorley. 

Whorley says the building where the medical facility is located is owned by Big Island Emergency Crew. 

"We've done quite a bit of work just this year. Over $10,000 worth of things have been worked on," said Whorley. 
        
The closest hospital or clinic is more than 10 miles away. Patients will need to drive to Lynchburg or Bedford. 
 
"Knowing that the community has supported that clinic one way or the other for 40 plus years and then you get a letter in the mail, 'sorry we are closing up.'  It just feels like they are turning their backs on us and nobody seems to care," said Cocke. 

Centra says the clinic will close Dec. 28.